Knee pain can be the result of various underlying conditions. The knee joint is a complex structure made of multiple soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, and bones. Developmental deformities, injuries, and chronic inflammatory conditions can cause further pain in the knee.
Causes of Knee Pain
Knock-knee syndrome is a deformity in which the knees touch (or knock against) each other due to inward bending. The abrupt alignment of structures around the knee joint characterizes the condition. Knock-knee deformity leads to an imbalanced distribution of forces on the muscles and ligaments. The extra pressure on the outer part of the knee undergoes degradation over time, leading to pain.
The major symptom of this condition is knee pain that aggravates upon movement. It is usually a bilateral syndrome affecting both knees. Knock-knees develop temporarily as a part of the developmental process; however, the legs straighten as the child grows.
Knock-knees persisting after six years of age can significantly impact your quality of life. Knee pain arising from knock-knees and other anatomical deformities requires medical treatment.
Direct injury to the knee region can trigger knee pain. Overuse and sports injuries are common underlying causes of knee discomfort. Knee pain from an injury is usually accompanied by swelling, warmth, and redness.
Types of knee injuries causing pain include:
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the middle of the knee connects the thigh bone and the shinbone to stabilize the joint. Spraining or tearing of the ACL is the most common cause of knee pain. Athletes and sports players are more prone to developing this type of injury due to excessive overstretching of the ligament.
The collateral ligaments modulate the sideways movements of the knee, while the cruciate ligaments control front-to-back movements. You can suffer injuries to the various knee ligaments, limiting movements in different directions.
Automobile accidents and severe blows to the knee can fracture the knee, especially the knee cap. Osteoporosis patients have weak bones that easily crack under pressure. Breakage of the knee bone causes significant swelling and pain.
Abrupt twisting of the kneecap can damage the meniscus, a cartilaginous structure between the thigh bone and shinbone that effectively absorbs shocks. Tearing of the meniscus due to twisting is a highly prevalent knee injury that causes knee pain. Meniscal tears are common in sportspeople and athletes.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, commonly known as the runner’s knee, is characterized by pain in the kneecap region at the front of the knee.
Individuals with a runner’s knee can hear clicking sounds upon bending or straightening the knee. The ache is sometimes accompanied by tenderness, weakness, and instability.
Runner’s knee is most common in athletes or people who partake in sports; however, it can affect anyone. The primary cause is overuse or excessive pressure on the knee joint, such as repeated bending while climbing stairs or running.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative condition affecting the knee bones and joints. It involves wearing and tearing of the knee joint cartilage, which causes chronic pain, stiffness, swelling, and joint tenderness. It is most common in middle-aged people.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s antibodies destroy the knee joint. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are similar to OA.
Knee pain from muscle sprains and twisting usually resolves after some time. The best way to manage acute knee pain is to follow RICE, i.e., rest (R), ice (I) application, compression (C), and elevation (E) of the affected knee.
Pain-killer medications and corticosteroid injections can also provide effective pain relief.
You can also use knee braces to support the unstable knee after consultation with your orthopedic surgeon. They may recommend physiotherapy, as light stretches and exercises can ease the pain while strengthening the knee joint and enhancing its range of motion.
However, serious complications may warrant surgical intervention. These might include:
Osteotomy is the removal of part of the bone from the thigh bone/shinbone to alleviate knee pain. Knee osteotomies are performed to realign the knee bones to correct knock-knee deformity. Alignment can also help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Arthroscopic surgeries repair the damaged cartilage. ACL construction surgery is commonly performed to correct torn ACLs. The procedure can also help remove loose deformities from within the joint.
In advanced cases of knee osteoarthritis, knee replacement surgery is often the last option to treat unresolved chronic knee pain from arthritis. There are two kinds of knee replacement surgeries:
A partial replacement surgery involves removing the damaged parts of the bone and cartilage from the joint, which are replaced by implants.
The surgeon removes the bones, cartilage, and all associated knee joint structures, including the kneecap, thighbone, and shinbone. That is replaced by a high-grade prosthesis.